New CEO says local tourism leaders ignoring Speedway

August 4, 2011
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Leonard Hoops, the new CEO of the Indianapolis Convention and Visitors Association, is taking a look at changing the branding strategy that drives the city’s tourism and convention initiative.

And he’s seriously considering making the Indianapolis Motor Speedway a big part of that. I interviewed Hoops at length for a recent hospitality special section for IBJ’s print edition and he had some interesting things to say.

The ICVA’s current tag line is “Raising the Game.”

“I’m not sure the brand strategy we have now meets the test that I would look at for a brand strategy that is really going to move the needle,” Hoops said. “For me, it’s important to have something that really uniquely identifies a destination where if you take the words from the destination name, and just say that brand strategy, people know the destination you’re talking about.”

Hoops, who attended his first Indianapolis 500 this May, likes the idea of using an iconic landmark in the city’s branding. Something like St. Louis’ arch. It has to be something people “get excited about,” Hoops said.

He doesn’t think the people at ICVA are getting excited enough about the Speedway, or at least aren’t using it enough in promotional materials.

“One of the things I’ve picked up on in the first month I’ve been here is we’ve had a love, not love relationship with the [Indianapolis 500] and the [Indianapolis] Motor Speedway,” Hoops said. “In our history there have been times when we’re really linked ourselves to the race, and times when we’ve really seemed to have ignored it.

“The real question is how do you leverage something that everybody knows. Sometimes we’re almost to close to it to appreciate what that kind of recognition is like.”

Hoops admits there’s some resistence to the idea of using the IMS and Indy 500 prominently in branding the city.

“But I can also understand the perspective of other stakeholders who say ‘We’re so much more than that. Don’t pigeonhole us into that,’” Hoops said. “So the real trick is to come up with a brand strategy that leverages that, and doesn’t ignore it, because I think we’re ignoring it right now, without pigeon holing ourselves behind that.”

  • freebie
    The ICVA lets one private family foot the bill for the largest sporting event in the world. The ICVA then takes credit for the number of vi$itor$ that the city attracts every year.

    Agree that the relationship is not good -- no reason for this. About time someone high up at ICVA recognized this. This is encouraging.
  • I Like This Hoops Guy
    What Mr. Hoops is considering is a no-brainer, and it is about time. Indianapolis has become a great sports town, but the legendary track out west remains the soul of the region.
  • Yes Mr. Hoops
    Some insight: Years ago we had that love affair with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. But the ICVA started marketing/promoting only the immediate downtown area with the opening/planning of White River Park, Lucas Oil Stadium, JW Marriott, NCAA Hall of Champions, Circle Centre Mall, etc. These days it is all about the immediate downtown area as far as the ICVA is concerned. I think Mr. Hoops is on the right track "no pun intended". The ego of Don Welsh just about ruined the ICVA, so great to see the new face taking a new look at what the ICVA and city is doing to promote the entire city/region. Thanks Mr. Hoops!
  • Still waiting
    I'm still waiting on ALL the tie-in's promised by paid speedway propagandists in relation to the 100th Centennial Era....which if it was even remotely true, would have given ICVA a great launching point.

    But, as usual, the Speedway itself squanders an opportunity to make itself the center. And why wouldn't leaders ignore the speedway? The tainted 'out of control' damage to the Speedway's image....who wants to have that drag down tourism?

    Is it any wonder? Not from this viewpoint.
  • Indy fan
    Congratulations to Mr. Hoops for recognizing the contribution and role of IMS in Indy. Go anywhere in the world and everyone knows about the 500 and the Speedway. We should use it to our advantage.
    • Hoops is right
      The ICVA and Indianapolis potentates have taken the IMS and Indy 500 for granted for years. The IMS has asked for little and perhaps their community marketing has been less than it might be, but all the Colts and Pacers events together don't have the economic impact that IMS events have. And those events have cost taxpayers immeasurably less than the Pacers ande Colts have and will.
    • Free Advice
      Here we go again where a new ICVA leader thinks changing the tag line below the city name and modifying the website is the focus of generating new visitor income.

      Here is the truth. No one really cares about a city or states tag line, logo, color scheme. Save your money and time by doing another study, focus group, or hiring "brand" consultants or advisors.

      Here it is free of charge. Your brand is Indianapolis. Your benefits are your major attractions and events. Continue to support your largest generators of hotel rooms, grow and attract new events (American Medical Association, Engineering trade association etc) and redirect money and resources to things that produce results (FFA, Gencon, etc) and has high attendance, and cut losers and drains based on the same metrics. (black expo?)

      Bottom line; Hire and Redirect your new sales force on ability to get results. Don't waste everyones time reinventing the wheel.
    • New hire should show early success
      I would hope that Mr Hoops was hired from the West Coast knowing he and his new sales team would be bringing some of their largest convention and events with them.

      Why hire someone with a $500,000+ salary if they can't do that?

    • Not sure Mr. Hoops has fully looked at all of the marketing done. Wasn't the State's tag line "Restart your engines"?

      I understand what he is saying, but I also understand what the ICVA was trying to do. It used to be Indy 500 and then the other 364 days of the year around here. They have pushed to show we are more than one race.

      That said, I think we can do a campaign that does both. Now to other city's branding, I am not sure I know much more about St. Louis than the Arch. I am not sure I know much about Seattle than the Space Needle. Sometimes you can overbrand. Did the Arch 10 years ago, why do I want to go back to St. Louis, did the arch change?
    • no one under 50
      knows anything about the 500 or the speedway

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